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California Mother Charged in Toddler`s Death

Aired April 29, 2009 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Breaking news tonight. A beautiful 24-year-old LA mom takes her toddler girl, 18-month-old baby Emma, to the local park, when suddenly she`s attacked from behind, a blow to the head. Hours later, she comes to, the baby Emma gone. As police scour the area for the attacker, suspicion turns back to Mommy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mother of an 18-month-old toddler says she was in the parking lot in Lancaster, California, and had just put her baby in her carseat when an attacker approached from behind and knocked her out. Stacey Barker says she woke up five hours later several miles away, and little Emma was gone. After reporting Emma missing, a massive search was launched, and finally, her lifeless body was found near a freeway.


GRACE: And tonight: A mild-mannered highly respected university economics professor reveals another personality, his wife and two male friends found dead, the professor gone along with his passport, eluding local police and even the feds for nearly a week now. Law enforcement in the U.S. and Europe on alert. Family and friends learn Mommy murdered in front of the couple`s two young children. Tonight, we have that stunning 911 call.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s been shots fired.

911 OPERATOR: Uh-huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve got people injured.

911 OPERATOR: OK. Let me get (INAUDIBLE) OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That call for help was echoed more than a dozen times as people in and around the Athens Community Center theater on Saturday afternoon reported the killings, clearly shaken by what they saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took off running as soon as I saw him shooting!



911 OPERATOR: OK. It`s OK. Just calm down, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the calls poured in, dispatchers tried to get a description of the shooter.

911 OPERATOR: What does this guy look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. I didn`t -- I didn`t see him.

911 OPERATOR: OK. You didn`t see him? You just heard the shots?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had a pistol, like a handgun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One caller even identifying him by name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a professor at University of Georgia in the economics department. He`s...

911 OPERATOR: Hold on just a moment for me, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Zinkhan`s wife, Marie Bruce, and fellow town- and-gown actors Ben Teague (ph) and Tom Taynor (ph) died on the scene, while the manhunt began. Police surrounded Zinkhan`s home and searched his office but were unable to locate the professor. For those who witnessed the killing, even finding Zinkhan won`t be able to erase the memory of that afternoon.

911 OPERATOR: Are you sure you`re OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, I just saw my friends get shot!


GRACE: Also, a 17-year-old high school beauty, a model student, soccer player, vanishes into thin air, spring break, Myrtle Beach. Has there been a sighting of the missing high school soccer star? As we go to air, grainy surveillance video emerges picturing her. But what does it reveal? Tonight, her mom with us live. Where is 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know where she is! I don`t know if she`s alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police say someone fitting the teen`s description got off a local bus today on Ocean Boulevard, not far from where she was last spotted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, she stopped texting and calling people, which was unlike her, around 8:45 the night she disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This kid, Peter (ph), that was with her -- he ended up giving me two different stories when I was on the phone with him. I put him on the phone with the sheriff. He gave him three different stories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know for a fact that she wouldn`t just pack up and leave, leaving all of her belongings behind and not calling anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just want her to come home.


GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us. A beautiful 24-year-old LA mom takes her toddler girl, 18-month- old baby Emma, to a local park, when suddenly she`s attacked from behind with a blow to the head. Hours later, she comes to, the baby Emma gone. As police scour the area for her attacker, suspicion turns back to Mommy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This case is a tragedy. A beautiful 18-month- old girl is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A young mom is accused of smothering her 18- month-old daughter and dumping her body near a California freeway. Police say Barker initially claimed she was assaulted and her baby girl, Emma, kidnapped...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the statements that she gave to the police, different versions of what occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... but later admitted making that story up and said Emma died accidentally. Autopsy results haven`t been released, but investigators believe the little girl was suffocated.


GRACE: Out to Ellie Jostad. What happened, Ellie?

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, Nancy, Stacey Barker -- she`s a 24-year-old mom. She`s at a park in Lancaster, California. She`s just putting her little 18-month-old daughter, Emma, into a carseat when she said a guy comes up behind her, knocks her on the head, knocks her out. About five hours later, 10:30 at night, she says she wakes up, she`s at a park-and-ride lot several miles away. The little girl is nowhere to be found.

GRACE: Out to Mike Brooks, former fed with the FBI. OK, it stinks. It completely stinks. So she would have us believe, originally, that she got whopped in the head in a parking lot, at a park, a public park. Nobody saw anything. Then she wakes up, amazingly, miles away at a park-and-ride and the baby`s gone?

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, five hours later, Nancy. And then after about the third or fourth version of the statement she was giving law enforcement, you know, they were able, apparently, to figure everything out. And they believe that this poor little girl, this beautiful little girl we`re seeing here, died at the hands of her mother by suffocation.

GRACE: Take a look at this little girl, baby Emma, just 18 months old.

Back to Ellie Jostad. Ellie, what happened then? So she claims she woke up at a park-and-ride. I guess this is a bus station or a rapid transit station. And then what does she say happened?

JOSTAD: Right. Well, apparently, the cops start talking to her. Her story is evolving and changing, like Mike said, three or four times. So they start to doubt what really happened. And finally, that next morning, maybe six to eight hours later, she changes her story. She says, You know what? There was an accident. I panicked. I`ll take you to the body.

GRACE: And to Jo Kwon, reporter with KABC 790 talk radio. Jo, where was the body found, and in what condition?

JO KWON, KABC 790 TALK RADIO: The body was found near a fence right off the freeway, Golden State Freeway 5, and it was -- it was dead.

GRACE: Do we know yet the cause of death, Jo Kwon?

KWON: The coroner`s report is still going on, but investigators believe that she was suffocated just from just what the body looked like. They`re still waiting on toxicology and tissue reports, though. But they do believe she was suffocated by her mother.

GRACE: We are taking your calls live. Out to Toni in Pennsylvania. Hi, Toni.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, friend. How are you?

GRACE: I`m good. Thank you for calling in. What`s your question, dear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, is the mother and father together or is there a separation? Is there issues going on between the mother and father?

GRACE: Good question. Ellie Jostad, what`s the status?

JOSTAD: Well, we don`t know anything about the father at this point. But we do know that the little girl was living with her grandparents. The mom did have a job. She worked for a mortgage lender. And apparently, the grandparents were even -- grandma was working nights so the little girl wouldn`t have to go to day care. Also the mother -- the suspect`s brother was helping out with the child`s care. So this whole family pitching in to take care of the little girl, the only grandchild.

GRACE: So this was the first and only grandchild in the family. The entire extended family has centered their lives, their work lives, around taking care of this little girl. The grandmother got a job at night so she could be with the baby during the day. Another relative would take care of the child in the early morning hours so that other family members could sleep, could rest.

Back out to Jo Kwon with 790 Talk Radio. Jo, what do we know about the mom? What can you tell us?

KWON: The mom is 24 years old. You know, like you said, she was living at home with her parents. She, As far as we know, doesn`t have any other criminal record. So you know -- she`s living with her parents.

GRACE: You`re seeing a shot right there of the mom, mom Stacey Barker, 24, held on one million dollars bond. And this is what I don`t understand. Right now, she is charged with a lesser offense of murder two. She could walk in 15 years, if convicted.

Let`s unleash the lawyers. Susan Moss, child advocate, Renee Rockwell, veteran defense attorney, Atlanta, and George Prothro, defense attorney also out of the Atlanta jurisdiction. Why, George? Why murder two?

GEORGE PROTHRO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, what we`re looking at here is a case of...

GRACE: I want to see George Prothro try to explain this. Go ahead, Prothro.

PROTHRO: Well, what we`re looking at here is a case that may involve some provocation. It doesn`t appear from...

GRACE: Whoa! Whoa! What? What -- did you say provocation?

PROTHRO: I`m sorry? Yes, provocation. What I`m saying is...

GRACE: Oh, how did the baby provoke the mommy? What, did it cry? Did it wet its pants?

PROTHRO: Well, Nancy, what we`re talking about here is not provocation in the form of...

GRACE: Well, you just said provocation.

PROTHRO: Not provocation, Nancy, in the form of that the baby did something to upset the mother, but provocation in the form that the mother was emotional. This was an emotional killing. This would be the standard type of...

GRACE: Well, wait. Wait. Can you just -- like defense attorneys do, can you just pick what defense you want to go with, Prothro? Because you can`t go with heat of passion, which is a voluntary manslaughter -- voluntary manslaughter -- or provocation, all right? So which one are you picking tonight, Prothro?

PROTHRO: What I`m assuming is that this is not a crime involving premeditation, that this is a second-degree murder. There`s no intent here. And what they`re looking at is that...

GRACE: Really?

PROTHRO: ... potentially, that the mother was in an emotional state when this happened.

GRACE: Well, due to the photos and the video we have of her at the time of her arrest, and her ability to lie so well to police, completely fabricating the story about an attacker, Renee Rockwell, creeping up behind her in a public parking lot, whopping her over the head, coming up with this outlandish story, this woman is not insane. Prothro, doesn`t work. Renee, hit me.

RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And together with this massive manhunt and all the resources that resulted from this fairy tale that she told. But Nancy, here`s the first reason why. Number one, you don`t say anything to the police. But if you catch yourself making a statement, the last thing you want to do is tell a big, fat lie like she did here.

GRACE: OK, I still haven`t heard a defense. I`ll give you the commercial break to try to come up with one. Susan Moss, weigh in.

SUSAN MOSS, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: All that`s missing is a Zanny nanny and some chloroform. Come on! She -- how did this little girl die? When we find out the cause of death, I have a feeling those charges are going to ill change and they`re going to be upgraded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A young California mom could face life in prison after being charged with murder in the apparent smothering death of her baby girl. Police believe she was suffocated, but her mother claims she died accidentally. Barker initially told police daughter Emma was abducted.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 24-year-old California mother faces murder charges in the alleged suffocating death of her 18-month-old daughter. Stacey Barker first told police she was knocked out by a kidnapper and her baby girl, Emma, abducted from her car in the parking lot of a local park. But investigators say Barker later admitted she made that story up. She told police Emma died accidentally, she panicked and dumped the baby`s body near a freeway. Police believe the baby girl was smothered.


GRACE: LA County district attorney Steve Cooley (ph), you need to get out of office if you don`t upgrade these charges! Right now, the alleged killer of this 18-month-old baby, Emma, is only charged with second-degree death. She could walk in 15 years, if convicted. Why is the life of a baby girl worth less than the life of an adult? Why is that?

Straight out to Dr. Keri Peterson with internal medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital, joining us from Manhattan. Dr. Peterson, if this child were smothered to death, as is suspected, what would be the symptoms? What would be the indicia on the child`s body to show us smothering as cause of death?

DR. KERI PETERSON, INTERNAL MEDICINE, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL: When someone is suffocated purposely with force, there are telltale signs that you see on the body. First, if they`re strangled, you`re going to see bruises on the neck or you`re going to see marks on the neck. And also, you`ll see the tongue turn purple. And then you get these red splotches on the face, on the neck and in the eyes. Now, if someone is smothered, you`ll also see telltale signs. You`re going to see bruising on the mouth and on the nose, and you`re going to see characteristic red splotches in the eyes. If someone is accidentally suffocated, you don`t see these signs.

GRACE: I know it`s a difficult thing to do, but when you look at this 18-month-old baby, Emma, and imagine her tongue purple, her eyes red, splotchy as the petichiae, the veins in the eye burst, that is the reality of this child`s death.

Back to Ellie Jostad. What was the condition -- the circumstances of discovery of her body? Where was she discarded?

JOSTAD: Right. The body was about 40 miles south-southwest of this park where this happened. She was in some heavy brush along the Golden State Highway, right near a fence in an empty lot.

GRACE: To throw your child off the interstate into the brush, and she`s looking at a lesser-degree offense? Why? Why is she being granted leniency, if, in fact, she is guilty of the death of this baby?

We are taking your calls live. Out to Brenda in Texas. Hi, Brenda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. I`m having a really hard time trying to understand, why are these women killing their children? I have such a - - I`m having a hard time coping with it! I don`t understand how they can do such a thing to their child that they gave birth to!

GRACE: You know what, Brenda? Today is April 29. In five days, my twins turn 18 months old. And I can say that out of all the years I`ve been alive, 49 years, these have been the best 18 months of my life.


GRACE: And to think what this child went through before her death, and the last thing she may have seen was her own mommy looking down at her?

Let`s go out to the Dr. Caryn Stark, psychologist, New York. Caryn, give us some guidance.

CARYN STARK, PSYCHOLOGIST: You`re talking not about somebody who`s like you, Nancy, or like the caller. This is somebody who has no conscience. When you have no conscience, your child is an object, not a real baby. You can smother your child. You can toss them at the side of the road. But you can`t be a person the way we are, with feelings and caring and love and emotion.

GRACE: But Caryn, this woman seems perfectly normal. I mean, how can you not care about the child?

STARK: It`s hard to believe that she seemed perfectly normal. And beside which, we know that many killers do come across -- their exterior seems perfectly normal. But Nancy, somebody who`s perfectly normal keeps coming up with these stories about an attacker and lying, changing the story. That already tells you that this is not a perfectly normal person.

GRACE: Joining me right now is a very special guest that I`m sure you`ll all remember very well, David Smith. He`s the former husband of Susan Smith. She is convicted of the murder of their children. David Smith, thank you for being with us.

DAVID SMITH, EX-HUSBAND OF SUSAN SMITH (via telephone): Thank you for having me.

GRACE: David, this is a tough question. At what point after you learned the truth, that Susan Smith had murdered your children by drowning, strapped into seatbelts and drowned, did you -- when did you allow yourself to confront the reality of the way they died?

SMITH: Oh, that was probably -- that probably took me a couple of years to really let myself really feel and take in the way they died. It was probably a couple of years. It took that long.

GRACE: David Smith, I was the same way about the murder of my fiance many, many years ago. I think that years, literally years, went by before I let myself imagine him sitting there and being shot multiple times, what he went through in those moments before his death.

Mr. Smith, when you look back on the death of your children, the murders of your children at the hands of Susan Smith, their own mother, were there red flags? Did she seem perfectly normal up until then?

SMITH: Absolutely. I mean, I never saw any, you know, what I guess you would call telltale signs that Susan ever would have hurt Michael and Alex, would have harmed them. I mean, up to the point where, you know, she drowned them, Nancy, she was a very good mother up to that point.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A young mom is accused of smothering her 18- month-old daughter and dumping her body near a California freeway. Barker faces up to 25 years to life in prison.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This case is a tragedy. A beautiful 18-month- old girl is dead. You try to deal with it and maintain some perspective and treat it like any other criminal case without getting too emotionally involved in the case.


GRACE: And now police are inspecting -- investigating whether the wounds to this woman are self-inflicted -- that`s right, blows to the head she gave herself in this kidnap hoax.

Straight out to the lines. Ashley in Alabama. Hi, Ashley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. I love your show.

GRACE: Thank you. And thank you for calling in. What`s your question, dear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. My question is, some people are saying that it could be an accident and she didn`t mean to do this. Well, if it was an accident, then why did she wait four to five hours to report it?

GRACE: To Marc Klaas, president and founder of Klaas Kids Foundation. How can strangulation or smothering be an accident? I don`t understand that.

MARC KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: No, I don`t believe that I understand it, either. You know, just as Susan Smith concocted a carjacking scheme to cover up the murder of her own children, I believe we`ll find that that`s exactly what this woman has done in this case. I would suggest that the possibility exists that she may have cut a deal with the prosecutors for that second-degree charge...

GRACE: We`re not that far along yet.

KLAAS: ... as a means of avoiding the death penalty. And I would hope that the Anthony family is looking at that.

GRACE: We`re not that far along to cut a deal yet. We haven`t even gotten to that point yet. This is what they`ve charged her with upon her arrest.

KLAAS: Well, I don`t know what went down behind closed doors, Nancy, if she was going from the point of having been carjacked to the point of confessing and being implicated in the death.

GRACE: Marc Klaas, it ain`t over until it`s over.

KLAAS: Oh, no. Oh, no.

GRACE: So there`s a way to go on this trial. What we know right now, this 18-month-old toddler dead. Her mom`s kidnapping hoax is unraveling.



UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: 911. What`s your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m at the -- what is this -- downtown on Grady Avenue. It`s -- it`s at the Town -- it`s behind the Taylor greenhouse, at the Town and Gown players` theater. There`s -- a man who`s walked up and there were several gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Sir, stay with me, OK? Stay with me.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: You said at the Taylor Grady House this happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It`s in Athens.



UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. So someone got -- or someone started shooting off a gun at the Taylor Grady House. Is that right? Sir. I need you to stay with me. Listen. OK.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got several -- several other people are calling in so.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Listen, listen. Stay with me. What does this guy look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. I didn`t -- I didn`t see him.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. You didn`t see him, you just heard the shots?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy Jesus. Yes. Yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was there and he shot three people.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: He shot three people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Two gunshots to one man. It looks like one to the chest and another and I think to the chest.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Where is this guy now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did he go? Did anybody see -- he ran.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: I need a description. White guy? Black guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, white guy. Anybody have a description? Did anybody see what he looked like?

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: OK. Listen. Listen to me. Tell them if they`re calling 911 they`ve got to hang and just tell you what`s going on firstly. And I need a description of the guy right now. While male, black male, Hispanic male, quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White male. White male.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can anybody describe, can anybody describe what he looks like. I didn`t see him. Here.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: I need to know what this guy was wearing, what he looked like, what direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tall white male, 50s, goatee, beard, he`s wearing, it`s blue -- blue shorts, and like a t-shirt, got a.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Which way did he go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He headed towards Prince Avenue heading away from downtown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He headed that way.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Are you talking to an officer?


UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Go ahead and talk to him. Thank you.



NANCY GRACE, HOST: First question, why are 911 operators such jackasses? That`s the audio from a 911 call from the A mild mannered professor apparently has a split personality.

His wife and two of her male friends found dead. Now he and his passport are gone. Family and friends fear he murdered his wife and others in front of their two little children.

Straight out to Chip Towers with the Chip, what happened?

CHIP TOWERS, BREAKING NEWS REPORTER, AJC.COM: Well, you know, it`s pretty plain, really, Nancy. There`s not a lot of mystery to what happened. You know, this man walked up and shot two people very purposely and then another one who seems to have gotten in his way, got in the car with his two children and drove away, and.

GRACE: Well, Mr. Towers.

TOWERS: . hasn`t been seen since dropping his kids off.

GRACE: Chip Towers, if you say it`s pretty plain and straightforward, there is no mystery, then maybe you can tell me, where is he? What`s the motive?

TOWERS: Well, you know, that`s a good question.

GRACE: So that`s a little bit of a mystery, huh?

TOWERS: Well, it`s certainly no -- it`s certainly no mystery that the three people.

GRACE: Well, I`m asking you.

TOWERS: . the people that he killed and that`s it.

GRACE: Where is he? Where is his passport tonight, Chip Towers?

TOWERS: Well, certainly, I don`t know and the FBI doesn`t know.


TOWERS: . but they sure would like to know. And.


TOWERS: And you can call their number if anybody has any idea.

GRACE: To Matt Zarrell. Matt, what can you tell me about the relationship between the mommy and the two male friends? Why would this seemingly mild mannered professor go on a rampage and gun down his own wife, beautiful practicing attorney, and these two other guys that were volunteers in a local theatrical group with her?

MATTTHEW ZARRELL, NANCY GRACE STAFFER, COVERING STORY: Well, this was part of a reunion at the Town and Gown Players` Club at the Athens Community Theater, which is -- just a mile from the University of Georgia campus.

Now what happened was that police think there was a domestic dispute between Zinkhan and his wife. And at that point reportedly one of the men then tried stepped in and tried to calm the situation. That`s when he open -- he went back to the car, got a gun, opened fire, killing all three of them.

GRACE: Right now, police and authorities on alert even in Europe. This professor, an economics professor, highly respected, may have made it as far as another continent by now. Possibly because the 911 call took so long. They saw the guy. He was within eyesight. And by the time they finish that phone call, he was gone. Leaving his wife and two male friends dead. The children possibly witnessing this mass murder.

Joining me right now is a special guest, friend and neighbor. The father left the children at his home. Joining me is Bob Covington.

Mr. Covington, thank you for being with us.



GRACE: Mr. Covington, what was his demeanor when he left the children with you?

COVINGTON: Well, the interaction, the total amount of time was about 30 to 40 seconds. He came and rang my door bell. He told me that -- he asked me to keep the kids for about an hour or so. And -- then he just turned and ran off. And so I -- he told me it was an emergency, and from that point of view, I wasn`t shock that he return.

GRACE: Now let me ask you this. The two children, what are their ages?

COVINGTON: I believe they`re both under 10.

GRACE: Did they say anything to you to indicate that they witnessed the murders?

COVINGTON: The police came in and were trying to understand the nature of their father`s emergency. So I asked them that. And the only thing that the older child said was it was something about a firecracker.

GRACE: To Mike Brooks, translation?

MIKE BROOKS, FMR. DC POLICE DETECTIVE SERVED ON FBI TERRORISM TASK FORCE: Nancy, the kids may have been in the car and heard the shots, you know. And to them, that sounded like a firecracker. But, you know, it`s hard to sometimes get information out of children that young. Because they just can`t grasp the whole totality of what happened.

GRACE: Back to Chip Towers with the What was his standing there at the university?

TOWERS: Well, Nancy, you couldn`t get really much higher. You know he was a marketing professor but not only that, he was the Coca-Cola endowed professor of marketing at the University of Georgia which carries with it a -- you know some substantial salary.

He also had a position overseas which is what has, you know, authorities up in arms a little bit with concern at Free University in Amsterdam. So, you know, this guy was a highly regarded in the academic community.

GRACE: What do we believe about motive, Chip?

TOWERS: Well, you know, it`s no secret. Even the police have said that that there has been some talk of -- you know, possible, some kind of love triangle. I have not been able to confirm that from anybody. You know all you have to go on is that he had two specific targets. Both of those targets are dead now, Marie Bruce and Tom Tanner.

GRACE: Wait. I`m looking at Ben Teague, age 63.

TOWERS: Yes. This was a terrific guy. A gentle person. A wonderful person.

GRACE: I find that hard to believe he`s part of a love triangle.

TOWERS: Well, no. He apparently interceded and got in the way. Tried to be a peacemaker in the situation and he`s dead as a result.

GRACE: Oh, I didn`t know that, Chip. Chip Towers joining us from

Out to Caryn Stark. Weigh in, Caryn. Hasn`t anybody heard of D-I-V- O-R-C-E?

CARYN STARK, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, Nancy, I really believe that somebody was going on between this man and his wife. And it`s so interesting that everybody keeps saying that he`s mild mile mannered, because we have people who were Cub Scout leaders who were killers. So mild mannered means absolutely nothing.

GRACE: Well, to me, Caryn, if you`ve ever tried cases and you have a person like this professor, mild mannered, everybody liked him, well respected, it`s much harder for a jury to take it in that he could do such a thing.

Let`s unleash the lawyers. We are taking your calls live. Susan Moss, Renee Rockwell, George Prothro.

Susan Moss, what about it?

SUSAN MOSS, CHILD ADVOCATE, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Shoot your wife and you`ll get life. Hey, genius, there are divorce courts in Georgia. Luckily in this case, there are so many witnesses, one who named this professor by name. Others who -- you know, brought forth the description. This -- when they find him, when they find him, they`re going to be able to convict him very quickly.

GRACE: And to Renee, the fact that he may very well be up on the Appalachian trail, he`s an outdoors enthusiast, I mean, he clearly has his wits about him. He does not have any type of a mental defense.

RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don`t know about that, Nancy. I mean, like Susan says, shoot your wife, you may get life. Shoot all three and you`re looking at Sparky, even though we don`t have that in Georgia now.

But here`s the situation, Nancy, where not only did he kill one person, he killed three persons all at once. All were in danger and he endangered many more people. I see, Nancy, that he`d be looking at a death penalty.

GRACE: Well, you know, Prothro, after the courthouse shooter who gunned down a judge, a court reporter, a deputy sheriff who once guarded my courtroom, and a fed, he didn`t get death penalty. This guy is not going to get the death penalty in Georgia, especially if they move the trial to Atlanta.

GEORGE PROTHRO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Nancy, you know, that`s not necessarily true. I mean, this is a very neat.

GRACE: Put Prothro back up and let`s see what he`s got to see. Go ahead, Prothro.

PROTHRO: No, I mean, it`s a very unique crime. I mean we didn`t get -- I mean the death penalty was not meted out in the Nichols case, that`s true. But a (INAUDIBLE) county jury can be a very, very special animal. You never know.



GRACE: Your daughter has never gone this many days without being in touch with you, has she?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A New York teen who disappeared in South Carolina apparently didn`t have permission to go to Myrtle Beach. Her mom said she thought the 17-year-old was with a friend in Rochester.

DREXEL: She really didn`t get my permission to go but she was calling me -- and you know, just talking to me, letting me know what`s going on. But pretending she was still in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brittanee Marie Drexel vanished over the week. Dawn Drexel said she last spoke with her daughter Saturday.

DREXEL: And she said she was coming home. She says I`ll just see you tomorrow. I didn`t find out until Saturday night that she was here and they couldn`t find her.

JOHN HAHN, FRIEND OF 17-YEAR-OLD BRITTANEE DREXEL, REPORTED HER MISSING: Several different people throughout the two-day period that I was down there investigating reported that he`s been changing his story. I don`t know him personally. I think it`s very, very shady that somebody decides to make a 17-hour drive back to Rochester, New York at 2:00 in the morning, leaving clothes, liquor and a deposit back at the hotel.


GRACE: To Marlaina Schiavo, on the story. Marlaina, what can you tell me about grainy surveillance video emerging that reveals a shot of Brittanee?

MARLAINA SCHIAVO, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER, COVERING STORY: Nancy, police are looking at surveillance video from the hotel where Brittanee was the night she went missing and they said that she left the hotel alone. And she seemed to be in trouble. And that`s what they`re looking at.

GRACE: OK, now, what time do we believe that was? That`s when she first originally left her hotel with her friends, right?

SCHIAVO: That`s right, Nancy. It was around 8:00 at night. They`re still trying to build a time line at this point.

GRACE: Out to Victoria Freile, staff writer with the "Democrat & Chronicle," joining us from Rochester, New York.

Victoria, what can you tell me about the so0called, the male friend this little girl went to go visit that night? The last person apparently that saw her alive?

VICTORIA FREILE, STAFF WRITER, DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, COVERING STORY: Nancy, we learn today that the last friend to see Brittanee has hired an attorney and his lawyer has said that Peter is cooperating with police.

GRACE: Now, isn`t try it true, Victoria, that police continue to question him and that he says he has hired a lawyer because the questioning has become repetitive?

FREILE: His lawyer did say that he had hired a lawyer -- had hired him because he had been getting repetitive calls from the media and that questions from police were becoming redundant.

GRACE: To Mike Brooks, former fed with the FBI. Mike, translate that for me. That police are continuing to question him and their questions have become repetitive.

BROOKS: Well, they`re trying to catch him up -- trying to catch him in a lie, Nancy. Of course, you know, they`re going to ask questions that go back and say, you know, help me understand this. Or what did you say? What did you say? You know, just kind of pare phrase different thing. And, you know, sometimes they could become accusatory.

But then that`s when they have to start advising him of his rights. So apparently he hasn`t been advised of his rights as of yet. But, you know, he -- apparently now he is cooperating with law enforcement in New York and they`re also -- the law enforcement in New York and Rochester are also talking with law enforcement in South Carolina, with Myrtle Beach, and most likely with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. SCLED.

GRACE: Out to the lawyers. We are taking your calls live. First to Lois in Ohio, hi Lois.

LOIS, CALLER FROM OHIO: Hi, Nancy. I just want to say I love your show and what you think about your kids is great. There`s a need for more people like you.

GRACE: Lois, thank you very much for watching and for calling in. What is your question, dear?

LOIS: If Brittanee`s mom was so worried about her, why did she let her go out of the house without knowing where exactly she was going?

GRACE: Well, I can answer that. And the mom is with us. She told the girl, 17-year-old high school junior, you may not go to spring break Myrtle Beach. All right? She`s never had any problems with this little girl ever.

The girl has never run away from home. She has never been rebellious or angry. She`s got a great record at school. She`s a star soccer player. There was no reason not to trust her.

So let`s go to the mom. Dawn Drexel is with us. This is Brittanee`s mom. When she left the house that day, did you have any idea she was going to take off for Myrtle Beach spring break?

DREXEL: No. I didn`t have any idea that she was going to do this. I do trust my daughter and she needed to cool down a little bit because she was upset that I wasn`t going to let her go. And she asked if she could go over to a friend`s and just chill out for a little while. And -- because she was so angry that she couldn`t go. And that she just wanted to hang out and cool down a bit.

GRACE: Dawn, how do you believe she financed her trip down to Myrtle Beach? How did she get there?

DREXEL: Well, Brittanee had received some money from Easter, from the family. She did have a little bit from some work that she was doing with one of her friends. I think it was with -- they were painting and stuff. And also, I believe she might have borrowed some from a friend of hers.

GRACE: So what do you think she did? Take a -- what did she, take a bus? Did she -- how did she get down there?

DREXEL: From the -- from the two girls that she came down here with in a car, in the car. She came down with two.

GRACE: I see.

DREXEL: She came out with two girls and two gentlemen, and they drove down here to South Carolina.

GRACE: And Miss Drexel, I`m going to ask you what you have learned so far about whether this guy has changed his story. I`m having a hard time nailing that down. I keep getting conflicting reports. The last person, a male friend of hers from Rochester -- she went to his hotel room, (INAUDIBLE) some of his friends were there to visit with him.

Has he changed his story? Because I also find it very unusual to check out at 2:00 a.m., leaving behind belongings, a security deposit and hightailing it all the way, a 17-hour drive back to Rochester.

DREXEL: Nancy, I think the same thing as you do. I believe that -- I believe in my heart that he -- he`s hiding something. There`s something he`s not telling us. Because he changed his story so many times and even the Monroe County sheriff had questioned him, he also changed his story three different times. When he was speaking with him on the phone. So I can`t believe that -- you know, he doesn`t have -- he doesn`t know what`s going on.


GRACE: Everyone, we are taking.

DREXEL: There`s something.

GRACE: We are taking a quick break, we`ll be right back with Brittanee`s mom, but as we go to break, happy birthday to a Massachusetts friend of the show and Scotland`s native Edith Palmer. Edith never misses a show so I want to say to you tonight, happy birthday, beautiful Edith.



DREXEL: I`d probably hold her, hug her, kiss her, you know, I just want her to know that, you know, we`re not mad at her. We just want her to come home.


GRACE: Straight back out to Marlaina Schiavo. What can you tell me, Marlaina, regarding alleged sightings of her as early -- as recently as today.

SCHIAVO: This morning, Nancy, she was sighted on a bus in the local area, a bus that goes about 35 miles out from the Myrtle Beach area and then back to the area where she was staying. Police are following up on these leads. They`ve showed pictures to people who were on that bus.

They say that the girl that they saw matched the description of Brittanee, and they`re still following up on that. They haven`t said anything further and they haven`t found -- obviously haven`t found Brittanee just yet.

GRACE: Back to Brittanee`s mom, Dawn Drexel. You have just come from meeting with police. What did you learn?

DREXEL: They have a lot of new leads today. They are following up on them. And we also have the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They have sent to -- they have sent some of their people here to help us in the search.

GRACE: Everyone, the tip line in the search for this high school junior vanishing from spring break. 843-918-1382.

Let`s stop and remember Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Dean, 25, Hanover, Alabama, killed Iraq. Awarded the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon. Also served Afghanistan. Lost his life just weeks after his wedding.

He loved hunting, spending time with friends, leaves behind grieving parents, David and Edith, one sister, two brothers, widow Ann, also serving the army. And 3-year-old son Tyler.

Jonathan Dean, American hero.

Thanks to our guests, but especially you for being with us. I`ll see you tomorrow night 8:00 sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.